A Midsummer Night’s Gathering

81571AC0-EF21-4E6B-B7C3-6938811E5271Just as the Bellos family drove in bringing two pizzas and a cake, another car came in the drive, and it turned out to be John Bright, Tom’s 1949 Princeton classmate, come to say hello to his old friend. John is a member of the men’s group Tom started, and says he can still barely hear anything in spite of a cochlear implant, so conversation and interchange with friends is difficult. But even the brief minutes he was here got us this nice portrait.

The evening was sunny and warm. Some of us sat on the porch, and Tom elected to stay inside, out of the confusion, listening to the end of the Messiah, which just happened to be on our beloved AllClassical KOAC-FM. (You can get it anywhere in the world, by the way.) We came indoors to join him and cut the cake, anticipating by just a few hours our sixty-third wedding anniversary.32D4E159-B17B-4F05-96DF-72C7A1633C56

During the evening, we had a flag-raising on the newly placed flagpole out by the Tree House. It’s always had a prayer flag on it. The last one was brought from Nepal by our friend Kami Tenzing Sherpa, but it met its shredded end during the windy ice storm last winter. This new one will reach two ways, to the tree and the Tree House, and it will be a backdrop for Soren and Hannah’s wedding ceremony on the 22nd.
image1 (65)

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Our New Quarters

unnamed (1)The moon is full. I see it from my new bed in what used to be the study, high in the sky. It’s just released “the night-entangled trees.” We are home, working through the first complicated weeks after Tom’s foot surgery, getting ready for Hannah’s wedding. I just came on this set of reflections written toward the end of a long sea journey in 2015.

Things we look forward to about getting home

The sound of rain on the roof.

Hugging Hester and everybody.

A lady on the elevator said,

“And to think I’ll be making my own bed next week!”

Doing some things in a new way..

 

It would be healthy to

write five times a week, to

paint five times a week as we have done.

have help making beds, buying gas, groceries,

cleaning Whistler’s cage,

pruning shrubs,

putting the garden to bed,

bringing in plants that will die in the winter.

I’ve had a lovely birthday song

from our friends and servers:

the Indonesian version.

Nancy and Kirk, friends we’ve made who

sit at the table for two next to us,

have shared my cake,

deftly cut  by Andi.

 

I understand Tom’s feel of being

cut out by not hearing.

It’s not hard to relay talk, table to table,

and he appreciates it.

 

Daniel and Carol have come by,

other friends we’ve made

sharing teaching, SE Asia and more,

and understood our pleasure.

I urge Tom to tune out the prattle,

boring endless talk from other tables.

We have our liqueur here,

but I’m not sure he can tune out enough

to relieve that strained look on his face.

There are times I think I seem ridiculous to him.

He says not.

 

What he most wants

is to get to bed.

* * *

All kinds of ways you maintain your sense of proportion. We get an emailing from the families of Bailey Meora and Sidney Shumacher who were killed in the earthquake in Nepal. There is nothing that will let us forget those young women or that event. The email thanks us for our contributions. It is all part of us. Even in this suspended segment of our lives, they are with us and so is Finn, our nephew who was their friend and for whom this loss will be part of his life forever.

This poem came from the Poetry Foundation. I discuss it with another friend who is writing lots of rhymed poetry and is trying to figure out why so many people he respects urge him to quit trying so hard to rhyme! I read this first not even realizing it not only was rhymed but was a sonnet.

Armed Services Editions

By Jehanne Dubrow

My copy of The Fireside Book of Verse

is as the seller promised—the stapled spine,

the paper aged to Army tan—no worse

for wear, given the cost of its design,

six cents to make and printed on a press

once used for magazines and pulp. This book

was never meant to last a war much less

three quarters of a century.

                                             I look

for evidence of all the men who scanned

these lines, crouched down in holes or lying in

their racks. I read the poems secondhand.

Someone has creased the page. Did he begin

then stop to sleep? to clean his gun perhaps?

to listen to the bugler playing taps?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Upheavals and Changes

I think it’s called “with a heavy heart” that I cancelled today our long-planned fall and IMG_0063winter trip by train and ship to Australia and New Zealand. It was going to be a stretch even in the best of circumstances, and now it would be impossible. But Tom and I will talk over other possibilities when the time is right. Now, we’ll concentrate on getting him healed and walking again. Hester, Julia and Hannah came and sang for him yesterday. I’ll ask Tommy to post this, just to let people know how grateful we are for friends’ support.

image1 (64)Tom has been in Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland for one week. A sore on his right pinky toe turned angry, and it had to be amputated a week ago. He has been in good spirits, but his recovery has been hampered by limited blood supply to his legs and feet. He is, after all, 89 years old, 90 in August.

We hope he will be going into a skilled nursing facility for a week or so of therapy so he can come home and resume a normal, albeit revised, life.

Thank you for notes and healing thoughts! Over the weekend I came home to shower, do laundry, and sleep. I was for the first time reassured that Tom wasn’t in a life-threatening situation. It looks as though the blood vessels in the leg are going to be sufficient to heal the wound caused by the removal of the toe.

The vascular surgeon has decided not go in to clear up the clogged places, feeling that the healing is proceeding alright on its own. And then soon, maybe tomorrow, we head for a rehab center somewhere for we hope less than a week. The goal is to get home with hospital bed and walker, and a chair that helps him get up and sit down.

Hester spent the night Saturday night. We’ve been trading off. At first it was because Tom was sometimes confused, and also moved to standing faster than the bed alarm could alert staff. So things are looking up.

image1 (62)Discovered yesterday that the sculpture in the beautiful chapel at Good Samaritan where we are is called “Corpus” and is by Fred Littmann. That chapel was being planned when we were first planning Hospice/Hopewell House in the eighties.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The Tree House

IMG_1938 (1)For the first time quite like this, we sit out here in what we call the Tree House and anticipate the “heat wave.” It will have a hard time vanquishing the cool breeze coming down the hill through the woods.

This morning when I had finished taking most of the ivy off the Tree House trunks, I realized how much we had built into that treasured place. Horseshoes found in the woods, from my father’s pony, Bud, are on the uprights. Those in turn are our own trees, and the rafters, railings and braces are pieces of old split-rail fence we found here when we came in 1965.image2

The little bronze owl totem sitting on the south rail is one I was given when I received an Aubrey Watzek award at Lewis & Clark twenty years ago or so, and the rhododendrons in bloom just beyond him are wild ones transplanted there by my grandfather.

image3The little crouching wiseman just below the owl in the totem is echoed by the troll we had carved last year in the tree stump next to the structure. The whole was never planned but there it is, full to the peak with blessings, needed now. We started it right after 9/11, partly I suppose to help us through that time. And it goes on.

(This was for my Writing About Birds class that came here for lunch Friday after a morning at Audubon down the hill. We never got past the porch.) 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All in Each Others’ Arms

Last year about this time, a time of birthdays, I wrote this for Emily, our eldest grandchild.

FullSizeRender (22)Dear first born
of my firstborn daughter,
we whirl in gentle
wreaths
of love and understanding
imagine lives without each other
remember how it was
before
knowing how it will be after
but all the while holding
suspended
that which will never be lost
never be forgotten.

Images of you in my father’s arms,FullSizeRender (20)
of you first walking
in grass with flowers
even as he was going out,

swirl now with your babies

all in each other’s arms
for good.

JSB
June 5, 2016
For Emily, on the first birthday after she bore her first daughter.

IMG_2320Now, I put it together with a painting we bought yesterday, “Music in the Night,” a small landscape by Barbara Stafford-Wilson, from her current show at PDX gallery. She did it from memory, of a night they heard a fisherman singing in Cadgwith Cove on the South coast of Cornwall.

Apple blossoms are in bloom now. I add them and the smell of apple blossoms opens another layer, a sheen of light, shade, timeless.

The realities blend no less because they blend only in my mind.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1941: In Memory

D-SPCT38
The chapel at Pomfret School

I wrote this on hearing a work by Philip Glass, or certainly one of his students, followed by Olivier in William Walton’s “Henry V.” That was what Tom was listening to in Far and Martitia Tuttle’s apartment at Williston in the spring of 1952, when I was brought to be introduced to the Tuttles by my friend Ted Sizer. Ted was driving me back to Smith after we had both sung in a joint glee club concert at Yale.

We’ve recently seen Matthew Ross’s Theater Thesis performance at Lewis & Clark. I’m sure this writing was prompted partly by that, by his understanding that “memory decays, people embellish.” Tom and I share a very exact memory of how that first meeting felt. That memory is now embedded in two lifetimes.

1941: In memory

That would be the only way to portray
my memory of hearing about Pearl Harbor,
each phrase repeated over and over,
sung, each time slightly different.

Sunny, after lunch.
Maybe Sunday.
I was nine.
Grandpa and Grandma Smith with us.
Never usually were.

Maybe we had been to The Russian Bear for lunch.
We almost never went out to a restaurant.
The Russian Bear was over toward Putnam.
Run by the parents of my friend Carl von Conta.
Russian refugees perhaps.

My Mother’s parents
visiting in Pomfret from Concord.
Walking from the street.
Pomfret Street was Rte 44. through the town.
Walking toward our
house which was a “dorm apartment.”
My father a “dorm master.”
“Hey sir!”
From an upper dorm window.
Why had we parked on the street?
Grandpa and Grandma Smith never walked any distance.
The expanse of lawn.
The white Congregational church across the street.
The minister there always mispronounced my name.
Jo-an, accent on the first of two syllables, when my
name was just plain Joan.
I played with his grandsons, one of whom was named Ronnie…

“Sir, did you hear about Pearl Harbor!?”
Or did that boy shout something else?
“The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.”
Perhaps.

Our move to the Headmaster’s house
must have been right soon after:
Uncle Hal went to be a major in England.
Auntie Ba went to live in Boston.
They had been head and living
in that house since I was born.
Daddy who was only thirty-five was made head.

I worried for the next five years
he would be drafted.
In the end, he never went…
a person needed to educate young men.
To his death, he missed what he viewed as
a bond men formed only in having
survived battle together.
Many of those young men died.
I knew them, see their names now on the chapel wall.
George Purvis, Bill Townsend, others.
Tarawa, the Battle of the Bulge, Eniwetok.

We remember, even if faultily.

“…upon St Crispin ‘s Day!”

View of the World

Recently we have figured out a way to get emails and pictures to Liz, my wonderful 81-year-old handicapped sister in Port Townsend. The supervisor at her sheltered housing has wireless at home and can take what we send to Liz and show her how to look at it. The following was part of the first bulletin.

jsbhorse“Tom and I were over in Eastern Oregon last week and I had a long ride on this nice horse whose name was Scout. That person getting on her horse is the wrangler whose name is Sierra.

“And this a picture of Tom with the blanket I just finished knitting.”tomsweater

Liz is devoted to Tom, and when we talk on the phone, she barely lets me start with the first few words before she interrupts with, “Where’s Tom? Can I talk to him?”

She remembers every dog our family ever had, and I’ll try to send her a few pictures of them as we go along.

The ride in question was through juniper and scrub, with regular glimpses of snowy mountains from the Three Sisters to Jefferson, Black Butte and north. My legs were less wobbly than I’d thought they’d be at the end.

FullSizeRender (18)To get there we went up the gorge, turned south at Hood River, and climbed up through Odell, Parkdale, the mountain gleaming from a different direction at every turn. Upon arrival, we placed daffodils from home, Tom having his pipe after supper, the sound of the river from below. We were in the tree-tops. The junipers are a good 100 years old.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.